When we notice problems in the church, how do we react? To my knowledge there are only four basic types of reactions we can have. Ultimately three types die of some form of spiritual malnourishment, and only one type survives.
The most common thing to do when we encounter poor or bad leadership is nothing except to sit back and ignore the call to initiate change. In doing so, we inactivate and numb ourselves to the prodding of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we convince ourselves we don’t really know what is going on so we shouldn’t speak. We may feel too uneducated to have an opinion, or not consistent enough in living out our daily faith to possibly have insight. What is the root of that really? The same root as all sin, pride. We are afraid to make fools of ourselves. Yet we all know God delights in using the weak (1 Cor. 1:27-29); who are we to refuse that? If God can use an donkey to speak to Baalam can he not use us? Sometimes we think, “Well even though it is wrong, it isn’t my business.” Our church is our business; just like our family is our business. When we numb ourselves to the call we doom ourselves to die a slow spiritual death. We stop listening to our “nagging” hearts all the time. We loose touch with God and our relationship with God becomes an empty shell.
Another way people react is by stopping to go to church all together. They feel the same way, they can’t fix anything, and it isn’t their place to speak. They’re afraid leadership will eat them alive. Sad to say in some cases they might, but that is not reason enough to just give up. When Leadership does that you have to take a step back and evaluate what you are saying and the way you are saying it. Pastors are shepherds who are trying to protect their flock. If you send them mixed signals with a poor attitude they will be far less likely to listen to your concerns because all they will see is someone trying to divide. It is sort of like taking your pet to the veterinarian. Your pet does not understand the vet is trying to help. If the vet moves quickly or makes the pet uncomfortable and feel threatened, the pet will not react well. No one can read your mind so be careful like a good vet is careful and loving. There are honoring ways to speak your mind and dishonoring ways, our natural tendency is dishonoring, even though we don’t realize it. My Childhood pastor told me every word we utter we are using either to build up or to manipulate another person. Ask yourself which one you are doing at all times. All us need keep this verse in mind.
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (KJV)
Another reaction is of those who stop going to church all together. This is in some ways better than the first. I mean at least these people are reacting, at least the act of leaving the congregation sent the message once that something was not right even if it was unclear and confusing to those who received it. Truth is, to walk out on the church without a word is cowardice, just like the first reaction. I cannot sum up any better the words of Charles Spurgeon…
I know there are some who say, “Well, I have given myself to the Lord, but I do not intend to give myself to any church.” Now, why not? “Because I can be a Christian without it.” Are you quite clear about that? You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord’s command as by being obedient? There is a brick. What is it made for? To help build a house. It is of no use for that brick to tell you that it is just as good a brick while it is kicking about on the ground as it would be in the house. It is a good-for-nothing brick. So you rolling-stone Christians, I do not believe that you are answering your purpose. You are living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live, and you are much to blame for the injury you do.”
- Charles Spurgeon
If you are in fact one of these people, I really believe it’s your Christian duty to find a church or a house church. If you don’t like any maybe you need to compromise and join one anyway. That is, after you have dealt with your own pride and self-righteousness if it is an issue, and it quite likely is if that is the case. How you might ask, do I go about finding a church I might participate in? Well if you’re looking for a church that can address your concerns, you’ll probably need to pick a smaller one, one where you have a voice and can get to know other members intimately. If you can learn to defend yourself scripturally, and you can get a fair hearing for what you have to say (even if they don’t always agree with you) then you’ve probably found a good church. Again the key is saying it lovingly and respectfully.
Start there and remember we are here to serve the Church, not for the church to serve us. Stop taking the seat at the head of the table where it is all about you and insisting on being first served. Those who wish to be first must become the last by serving. Regardless, you need to learn the basic principal of contentment in wherever God has placed you. Without the church you will be cutting off a vital and life sustaining artery of encouragement, opportunity, correction and other spiritual needs.
The third type is the kind that stands up, but when they do this they do it arrogantly, or self-righteously, or they do it without talking to the proper people in the prescribed order of Matthew 18 and in doing so bring division. They even might be correct in everything they say, but perhaps they are not doing so in a loving or respectable manner. These reaction hurts the church and ultimately hurts the reactor as they end up without any fellowship, or continue in the pattern and destroy often more churches in the process.
The last type type is only one that survives and grows stronger, at least in their personal faith, not necessarily in that specific church. Those that survive are the ones that lovingly speak their hearts and put their faith into action. From there, who knows how the Holy Spirit will guide you, but if it keeps you spiritually alive, what choice do you have? That person may fix the church, but they might also need to leave. If that is you, please don’t be afraid, do what you think you should do, continually measure it against scripture and make sure your are doing it with as much love and respect as possible every step of the way, and if you fail at it along the way, humbly apologize quickly and fully, otherwise you are only stalling if not destroying potential healing.